Just a quick heads-up for those who might want to watch this happen, at 10am today, the NJ Supreme Court will heal oral argument in an appeal filed by Gov. Christie in which he argues that he has the power to abolish independent state agencies. It will be broadcast live from the 8th floor of the Richard J. Hughes Justice Complex in Trenton.
Background: Gov. Christie appealed a March 8, 2012 decision by an appellate court that ruled that his abolition of the Council on Affordable Housing (COAH) violated state law. The panel found that NJ’s State Constitution and statutes do not allow Gov. Christie to abolish independent agencies. [Independent agencies include ELEC, NJ Turnpike Authority, Rutgers, and COAH.] The decision has had broad ramifications, including ending the Governor’s attempt to eliminate Rutgers-Camden through a similar reorganization plan.
Fair Share Housing Center Associate Director Kevin D. Walsh:
“The Governor’s role under the constitution is to enforce the laws, not to make them. The Appellate Division got it right. Gov. Christie does not have the power to abolish independent agencies he doesn’t like. We need homes for working families, people with special needs, and seniors. Putting the Governor in charge of housing policies he opposes is bad for working folks looking for homes in NJ.”
The appellate court, which relied on quotes from Associate Justice Antonin Scalia on the proper separation of powers in the original meaning of the Constitution, rejected Gov. Christie’s argument that the state Constitution gave him unlimited power to change the structure of state government.
A related matter before the Court on Monday involves whether the Christie Administration may take $140 million in municipal housing trust funds reserved for building thousands of additional homes for families, seniors, and people with special needs. The administration claims those funds can be taken without any guidelines or review by COAH’s board. The Appellate Division in August 2012 blocked the attempt to take the trust funds; the State has appealed that decision to the Supreme Court. The NJ State League of Municipalities will be arguing alongside FSHC that the administration’s attempt to take the funds from municipalities is unlawful.
Gov. Christie’s attempts to undermine the Mount Laurel doctrine, which has built over 60,000 homes for lower-income families, seniors, and people with special needs and ensures fair housing choices for all New Jerseyans, have been repeatedly rejected by the courts and Legislature. Courts have twice found that the governor exceeded his delegated powers and the Legislature has rejected the policies he proposed.